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One solitary life

An anonymous author has written this concerning Jesus: He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then, for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never lived in a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his garments, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the governments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned—put together—have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.

That one solitary life who continues to make such an impact…is Jesus. And he is what we come to this week. The very center of our faith …is Jesus Christ—who he uniquely is, and what he uniquely has done. There simply is no one like him.

The greatest impact on world history

A 19th-century historian adds that this Jesus of Nazareth, without money or weapons, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without scientific training he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. 

Jesus is one-of-a-kind. And he came for you, for your good and mine, for all who will daily trust and follow him. 

Welcome to week four of our series Unshakable, on the handful of beliefs that are unique to the Christian faith. These are the things that are unshakable, unchanging, and life-changing—and none more so than Jesus himself. 

Everyone has an opinion about Jesus Christ. What we want to do this week is unpack what the New Testament writings themselves—the original source documents—reveal about who only Jesus is, what only Jesus has accomplished, and therefore why only Jesus is worth giving ourselves to fully, daily.

Why we follow Jesus

The first reason we follow Jesus is that…

  • Only Jesus is God and man.

In a variety of ways throughout the New Testament, the radical claim is made that Jesus is fully human and fully God; God up close and personal, God in the flesh, God with skin on. In Paul’s letter to the church in the city of Colosse, for example, a Jewish rabbi, someone who would believe fiercely that God is one, and that humans are not God, nonetheless Paul writes this concerning Jesus:

“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…” Colossians 2:9

The man from Nazareth is also fully God. In Jesus, and Jesus only, God has given us a full and complete expression of himself. 

  • If you ever wonder what God is like, get to know Jesus as he is revealed in the New Testament. 
  • Do you wonder what God loves? Get to know Jesus in the Scriptures: see how he interacts with people like you and me.
  • Is there anything that God hates? Get to know what angered Jesus as recounted in the gospels. Only Jesus is God and man in one. 
  • He claimed to hold authority to forgive sin. To prove that when challenged, he miraculously healed a man paralyzed man.
  • Jesus spoke, and storms instantly calmed.
  • He taught, and people were astonished at his authority.
  • He knew people’s inner thoughts and personal history that he could not have naturally known.
  • He received people’s worship and did not stop them.
  • He turned water to wine, gave sight to the blind, fed 5,000 from a child’s lunch, walked on water, and raised his friend from 3 days in death’s grip. This is not merely a man.

The Message paraphrase of Colossians 2:9 says it like this: “Everything of God gets expressed in him [Jesus], so you can see and hear [God] clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too.”

Fully God and man

Jesus is fully God, and fully human as well, understanding and empathizing with our experience. He gets what it’s like to be you, to be in your shoes. Here’s how Joe Balyley muses on that, in his poem “Psalm to the God man.” Bayley writes…

Lord Jesus Christ
I thank you
That you were real
A real man
And before that A real boy.
It hurt when you were planing wood and you got a spinter under your nail.

You felt it when a stone got stuck in your sandal.
You had to shake it out.
You removed the sand from between your toes and slept
on hard ground on cold nights dreaming of foxes with their warm holes.

You got thirsty, hungry, tired, bone tired,
tired of crowds ,tired because you walked too far.

You died.
Lord Jesus Christ
I thank you that you were real real God.
You healed people’s hurts
Even raised their dead.

You said
Come to me if you’re tired and I will give you rest.
You fed hungry crowds and said
I am living bread that came down from heaven.
You rose from deadness into life bringing life.

Lord Jesus Christ
I thank you that you are real real God man.
I worship you
I adore you because you who bore my sins know what it’s like
to have a splinter under your nail and to die.

Fully human

Let’s keep going. Max Lucado, arguably the best writer out there for conveying Jesus’ humanity, adds this take on Jesus’ humanity:

“He was touchable, approachable, reachable. And, what’s more, He was ordinary. If He were here today, you probably wouldn’t notice Him as He walked through a shopping mall. He wouldn’t turn heads by the clothes He wore or the jewelry He flashed.

“Just call me Jesus,” you can almost hear Him say.

He was the kind of fellow you’d invite to watch the Rams-Giants [or Colts] game at your house. He’d wrestle on the floor with your kids, doze on your couch, and cook steaks on your grill. He’d laugh at your jokes and tell a few of His own. And when you spoke, He’d listen to you as if He had all the time in eternity.

And one thing’s for sure, you’d invite Him back.

The Word Became Flesh, Max Lucado

You’d invite him back because Jesus is one-of-a-kind magnetic, attractive; grace and truth perfectly united in a way you’ll never see anywhere else, in anyone else. We follow Jesus because only he is God and man.

The second reason we follow Jesus is that…

  • Only Jesus loved God and people fully.

Only Jesus was without sin. That sets him apart from everyone. He didn’t lie. He never stole. He wasn’t greedy. He didn’t spread gossip or slander anyone. He never took advantage of anyone.

Only Jesus loved God and people always and fully. And so only Jesus can deal with our sin. Look with me at an unusual way The New Testament describes that—unusual to us as 21st-century non-Jews, but stunning to 1st-century Jewish believers in Jesus. The book of Hebrews draws on imagery from the Jerusalem Temple’s rituals to showcase Jesus’ sinlessness and self-sacrifice, writing…

“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—

let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. 

He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. 

So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. 

Take the mercy, accept the help.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG

Here’s what he’s saying. The holiest people among Jews were their priests. And the holiest among the priests was the high priest. Yet even he couldn’t come before God without a sacrifice, a sinless substitute. The writer of Hebrews uses that image to show how much better Jesus is, compared to the holiest man they knew. He needed no sacrifice. He was at once both the High Priest and the sinless substitute, the sacrifice for our sin. He who had ready access to God opened access to God for you and me and anyone who will trust in him. Only Jesus perfectly fulfilled the very reason God created us—which is to enjoy companionship with God and friendship with one another.

As someone has put it: 

Christ uncrowned Himself—to crown us,

And put off His robes to put on our rags,

And came down from heaven to keep us out of hell.
He fasted forty days that He might feast us to all eternity;
He came from heaven to earth that He might send us from earth to heaven.

Paul declared it clearly, writing…

“There is only one God.
And there is only one go-between for God and human beings.
He is the man Christ Jesus.
He gave himself to pay for the sins of all people.”

1 Timothy 2:5-6 NIRV

We have a great need for Christ; we have a great Christ for our need. 

We need a Savior, someone who can make peace between us in our sin, and God in his holiness. Only Jesus accomplished that—living a sinless life, and then going to the cross as the sinless substitute. Only Jesus could do that. 

And praise God, he has! Thank God, we have a Mediator Who brings us to God in all his holiness!

That brings us to the third reason we follow Jesus, which is that…

  • Only Jesus defeated death.

Our greatest enemy, Jesus experienced for us, in order to defeat its grip on us. The Christian faith stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. This is what sets the Christian faith apart from all other religions, worldviews, and philosophies: we follow a living Leader. The resurrection of Jesus is the only logical explanation for how the earliest Christians dramatically shifted from hiding behind locked doors after his crucifixion, to passionately devoting the rest of their lives to one declaration: Jesus who died has risen. We saw him. We talked back and forth with him. We touched his wounds. He ate with us. And then he ascended to heaven from which he had come—meaning, Jesus is alive today! 

Examine the evidence

I know it’s a huge claim. Look into the evidence. This is what pushed me to belief as a seeking skeptic: the compelling evidence that Jesus rose, is alive today, and therefore He alone is Lord.

The resurrection is at the very core of our faith. Here’s how Paul says it as he writes to the church in Corinth:

“What I received I passed on to you. And it is the most important of all. Here is what it is.
Christ died for our sins, just as Scripture said he would.
He was buried.
He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as Scripture said he would be.
He appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to the 12 apostles. 

After that, he appeared to more than 500 brothers and sisters at the same time. Most of them are still living…Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:3-6, 51-52, 57 NIRV

If ever there was a time in our lifetime that the resurrection of Jesus and all who trust in him matters, this is it. Two million people are dead so far in the pandemic, 400,000 Americans among them. To make it personal, my father died last fall at the ripe old age of 96. By our shared faith in Jesus who rose, I believe my father will rise. This is of first importance, Paul insists: death is defeated for all who trust the One who himself rose from the dead, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

And so we sing in Keith and Kristyn Getty’s song…
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
On that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

Only Jesus is God and man—for you. In him, and him alone, God has given us a full and complete expression of himself.

Only Jesus loved God and people fully, perfectly, without sin—for us. Only Jesus.
And only Jesus defeated death—for us.

What will you do with Jesus?

If you’ve never taken the step of faith to ask Jesus to forgive your sin and to lead you, why not make today the day? Why put it off any longer? He’s alive right now. He’s willing to become your Savior and Lord, and lead you a day at a time, then take you home to be with him when this life ends.

If you’ve not yet asked Jesus to come into your life, I’m going to lead in a prayer to do that, a prayer similar to what I prayed when I asked Jesus to forgive my sin and begin to lead me. I hope you’ll take this step of faith. Would you pray with me now? From where you are, say something like this to God.

God, I feel my need for your forgiveness.
I have sinned in thought, word, and actions.
Jesus, I’m asking you to come into my life.
I believe you died and rose to forgive my sins.
So come into my life as Savior, and forgive me.
Come in as Lord, and lead me.
And I will serve you, as you give me strength, all the days of my life. 

Amen.

If you have just taken that step of faith, let us know! We want to cheer you on in following Jesus with us.